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France-Turkey: cooperation and rapprochement 5 novembre 2014

Posted by Acturca in France, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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Today’s Zaman (Turkey) Wednesday, November 5, 2014, p. 11

Beril Dedeoğlu

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan traveled to Paris last week for an official visit, but Turkish media didn’t pay much attention to this diplomatic event. The pro-government press opted to focus on the president’s declarations on domestic political developments rather than reporting on the details and significance of the official visit itself, and opposition media focused on criticisms in the French media about the newly inaugurated presidential palace in Ankara.

It is obvious that Turkey’s new presidential residence is quite enormous and ostentatious. The problem is these press reports were published in the French media right before President Erdoğan’s arrival in France. Besides, newspapers on different sides of the political spectrum, such as Le Figaro and Liberation, have criticized the new residence with the same negative tone. It appears no matter what their political views are, all political players in France have similar perceptions about Turkey.

It is most unfortunate that domestic political bickering overshadows this kind of important diplomatic visit. It was a crucial visit, indeed, as we have learned that France and Turkey came together to discuss quite a number of strategic matters and that both countries disagree with the US on many issues.

Both countries agree that the activities of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have badly affected the image of the Muslim world. They both agree that the fight against ISIL shouldn’t make us forget about the Bashar al-Assad regime. They both agree that Kurds shouldn’t be seen as the only ones who are fighting against ISIL and that the Free Syrian Army, too, should be incorporated into the anti-ISIL process.

Similarly, France and Turkey do admit that Kobani is important, but they insist that Aleppo is strategically more important and that the international community shouldn’t focus all its attention on the former. Additionally, the two countries agree that a secure zone inside Syrian territory has to be created. France seems eager to send its troops on foreign operations, as we have seen in the case of Libya and Mali. So if ground troops are to be deployed in Syria in the wake of air operations, France will probably agree to send its troops.

Kurds all over the region are cooperating more than ever with each other because of the ISIL danger. In the past, the Kurds of Iraq, Turkey and Syria looked to foreign assistance independently, and divergent Kurdish groups were supported by different actors in Europe, or by Iran and Russia. Now they are together and seem to be looking for a single source of support: the United States. That’s very convenient for the US as this country doesn’t like European powers meddling in Middle Eastern affairs. One of these European powers is France, obviously.

Syria holds special importance for France for historical reasons — and for strategic considerations if you think about Lebanon; the same is true for Turkey as well. It would seem that France is considering cooperating with Turkey and maintaining a presence in the region through that cooperation. The mutual support of France and Turkey could be quite effective in the Middle East and may serve the interests of both countries. Nevertheless, we don’t know yet if France has agreed to carry Turkey to Europe in exchange for Turkey carrying France to the Middle East. Such a bargain would only be fair.

The French government has to accept some risks if it agrees to help Turkey in its bid to join the EU, as it will have to influence public opinion in both Germany and France. Turkey will have to accept a number of risks, as well, because Turkish-French cooperation in the Middle East will definitely disturb more than one European country.

When two countries decide to share risks and advantages, that means there is already cooperation on the horizon.

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